Obama Rejects Socialist Tag But Would Tax Health Plans If More Than People 'Need'

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his need." -- Karl Marx, 1875

"It's a tax on insurance companies that offer Cadillac, or quite frankly, Rolls Royce policies that in essence people don't need." -- Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs, 2-25-10

The day after Pres. Obama carped about people calling him a socialist, he sent his top spokesman out to describe a plan to tax health insurance policies that provide benefits more generous than what people "need."

Obama press secretary Robert Gibbs twice spoke of insurance policies that exceeded people's "need" during a Morning Joe appearance today.

Gibbs did so in response to questioning by Joe Scarborough as to why the Obama admin has decided to delay imposition of the tax on so-called "Cadillac" insurance policies until 2018--long after the end of even a second Obama term.  It's understood that Big Labor, a major Obama constituency, opposes the tax since many union members benefit from such plans. 

But even while claiming that time is required to "phase in" the tax, Gibbs supported its premise: that the government can and should tax people if they have more than they "need." 

Note: Republicans have been of two minds on the issue.  On the one hand, their tax-cutting impulse leads some to oppose any such tax.  On the other, Republicans objected when the Obama admin did a deal with Big Labor to exempt union insurance plans from the tax. In any case, I've not heard Republicans argue in favor of the tax in terms of the government's right to determine how much health coverage people "need."

Morning Joe played this clip at 7:10 AM ET.
BARACK OBAMA: We've arrived at a juncture in our politics where reasonable efforts to update our regulations or make basic investments in our future are too often greeted with cries of "government take-over, or even socialism."  And not only does that kind of rhetoric deny our history, it prevents us from asking hard questions about the right balance between the private and public sectors.
Less than an hour later, here was Obama spokesman Gibbs.
ROBERT GIBBS: This is something that's going to take some time to phase in. It's a tax on insurance companies that offer, quite frankly, Cadillac, or quite frankly Rolls Royce policies that in essence people don't need.
Gibbs repeated the "government decides what people need" theme a bit later.
GIBBS: What we have is a sensible plan that taxes insurance companies if they continue to offer insurance policies that are greatly in excess of what people need.
Will Pres. Obama be announcing the creation of the Department To Determine How Much People Need?  Will the MSM take note of the contradiction between PBO's rejection of the s-word and the rhetoric of his top spokesman?
Mark Finkelstein
Mark Finkelstein is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.